Best Cincinnati Reds Ever: Bucky Walters v. John Franco

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First Round Matchup No. 7 Bucky Walters v. No. 10 John Franco


Bucky Walters broke into the Major League baseball as a terrible thrid baseman then converted to being an underwhelming, mediocre starting pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies. But a midseason trade to the Cincinnati Reds in 1938 changed his career trajectory.

He was a 20-game winner thrice — and added a 19-win season — led the league in ERA twice, hits allowed thrice, complete games thrice and eclipsed 300 innings pitched in three consecutive seasons — all were league-highs. He was a five-time All-Star in a six-season span and won an MVP in 1939 — a season in which he won the pitching Triple Crown — when he won 27 games, 31 of his 36 starts were complete games, sported a 2.29 ERA and tossed 319 innings. And despite only having 137 strikeouts that season it was still a league-high.

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Walters received MVP votes in four additional seasons and established himself as one of the best sinker-ball pitchers to ever step foot on a mound registering 42 shutouts during his career. He may never be elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame, but his lasting impression on the Reds is one of the best.

In Reds history Walters ranks fourth in wins (160), fifth in inning pitched and is one of just 11 Reds pitchers to have a career ERA below 3.00. He was inducted into the Reds Hall of fame in 1958 — its first induction class.


Despite being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981, John Franco began his major league career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1984. Soon after, Franco established himself as not only one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball, but one of the best relievers in the sport.

Only his final season with the Reds — in 1989 — did he produce an ERA above 3.00, a season where still saved 32 games. But the season prior Franco had saved a league-best 39 games, had a 1.57 ERA and received MVP votes … more than teammate Eric Davis. He won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award. The two years prior Franco won the Johnny Vander Meer Award for Reds Outstanding Pitcher each season.

In his six-year stint with the Reds Franco saved 148 games and was the organization’s leader at the end of his career. He ranks third now behind Danny Graves and Francisco Cordero. But Franco ultimately saved 484 games in his career which placed him second all-time when he retired and now fourth behind Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith — but is the most for a lefty.

Franco saved at least 29 games in four consecutive seasons in Cincinnati, and despite underwhelming strikeout numbers, did manage to make the All-Star team thrice in four years.

But his Reds career ended the year before the 1990 World Series title. Instead, the Reds dealt him to the New York Mets in exchange for fellow left-handed reliever Randy Myers and thus he never claimed a championship.

He has not been inducted to either of the Baseball Hall of Fame or Reds Hall of Fame, but with 276 saves as a New York Met, he is a member of their team Hall of Fame.

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